The Hole in the Ground: Irish Horror Digs Up The Scares

Despite not being a huge exporter of horror movies, Ireland has offered some impressive and understated additions to the genre. In just the last few years Irish filmmakers have given us Let Us Prey, The Cured, and the impressive A Dark Song. Now the critically well-received The Hole in the Ground has hit several VOD platforms. Part dark fairy-tale, part creepy kids movie. Can The Hole in the Ground dig up enough scares?

Synopsis

Sarah lives alone, secluded with her son, Chris, in the Irish countryside. After Chris briefly runs away, Sarah finds him by a mysterious giant sinkhole in the surrounding woods. Soon thereafter, Sarah notices increasingly odd things with her son’s behaviour. When a strange woman claims Chris “isn’t her son”, Sarah believes that ‘the hole in the ground’ has in fact replaced her son with a doppelganger.

The Hole in the Ground Avoids Falling Into Familiar Tropes

On the surface, The Hole in the Ground feels like any number of creepy kid or evil doppelganger horror movies. However, director Lee Cronin, who also wrote the screenplay along with Stephen Shields, invests his movie with more than enough wrinkles to keep things fresh. First, The Hole in the Ground evokes a dark fairy tale narrative from its opening shots. The movie’s titular ‘hole’ serves as an omnipresent dark force. Its existence, and the horrors it may hold, go unexplained. It is simply present. Like many dark fairy tales, it’s the thing waiting for you should you get lost in the woods.

The Hole in the Ground evokes a dark fairy tale narrative from its opening shots.

In addition, The Hole in the Ground benefits from smart, ambiguous storytelling. Sarah’s background, included an absent husband, are mentioned only in passing. A family doctor notes a scar from a recent head injury. We also see Sarah discarding medication prescribed to her. Has some evil entity in the ‘hole’ replaced her son? Or is Sarah suffering from delusions? When Sarah hides a camera in her son’s room, she’s the only who can see anything strange in the recording. The Hole in the Ground never offers any definitive stance. A supernatural fairy tale? Or an allegorical story about mental illness and isolation? Either way, audiences will enjoy the story Cronin and Shields weave.

Visually Stylish and Atmospheric Horror Movie

From its opening shot, The Hole in the Ground strikes an eerie tone. Early scenes may even evoke memories of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Cinematographer Tom Comerford infuses the Irish wilderness with the same sense of isolation. To his credit, Cronin also maintains a consistent sense of dread throughout the movie’s runtime. The Hole in the Ground is a well-paced horror thriller that boasts some visual flair. Cronin manipulates and twists the camera, putting you as off balance as Sarah. One well-executed scare has you peering beneath a door crack. Yes, other movies have done before, but Cronin shows an apt eye for creepy visuals.

Cronin understands a basic horror tenet – sometimes what you don’t see is scarier than what’s put on screen.

And on the visuals front, The Hole in the Ground shows restraints with its creatures. Cronin understands a basic horror tenet – sometimes what you don’t see is scarier than what’s put on screen. With only brief glimpses of its horrors, The Hole in the Ground does significantly more than other horror movies that exhaustively trot out their monsters. Similarly, the massive sinkhole is an impressive visual achievement for what’s essentially a smaller-scale movie. Sarah’s descent into the hole is an appropriately claustrophobic climax.

Seana Kerslake Impresses with Strong Performance

For the most part, The Hole in the Ground is a two-person show. Relatively unknown actress, Seana Kerslake, delivers a strong understated performance. Simply put, she completely sells the desperation and fear of a parent who fears the worst for their child. Though young actors can be hit or miss, James Quinn Markey similarly impresses with his quietly creepy portrayal.

The Hole in the Ground A Standout Horror Entry of 2019

In a year where indie horror has taken a backseat to tentpole theatrical horror releases, The Hole in the Ground is a standout entry. While its premise could have resulted in a derivative thriller, Cronin mixes fairy tale storytelling, visual inventiveness, and enough ambiguity to offer one of 2019’s better horror movies. Horror fans should add The Hole in the Ground to their ‘must see’ list.

THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: A

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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